This year’s Hot Docs festival flaunts near-gender parity

Of the 230 titles to play this year’s edition of the documentary extravaganza, almost 48 per cent of the programming will be courtesy of female filmmakers.

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“Fair and balanced.” That might be a term more closely associated with cable stalwart Fox News (in either a sincere or cynical fashion) – but it can also be applied to this year’s Hot Docs film festival, with organizers touting near-gender parity among 2017’s selections.

Of the 230 titles to play this year’s edition of the documentary extravaganza, almost 48 per cent of the programming will be courtesy of female filmmakers. They include Lana Slezic, whose debut doc Bee Nation will act as the festival’s opening night film. Chronicling a group of students in Saskatchewan who compete in the province’s first First Nations Spelling Bee, Slezic’s work promises to resonate with current headlines – which makes it par for the course with Hot Docs’ 2017 lineup, a fact that the festival is eager to trumpet.

“The Hot Docs programming team has scoured the globe to bring the finest documentaries to Toronto audiences for a festival-high of 58 countries,” said Shane Smith, director of programming for the festival, in a statement. “As our world shifts in startling new ways, Hot Docs is committed to showcasing those films that tackle topics of global importance: from environmental issues and human rights, to international conflict.”

On that latter note, this year’s festival offers coverage in spades across all 13 of its programs. The devastating war in Syria, for instance, will be highlighted by such films as 69 Minutes of 86 Days, which follows a three-year-old Syrian refugee and her family as they struggle to make their way through Europe; Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, by noted documentarian Sebastian Junger; A Memory in Khaki, which promises a more poetic take on the conflict; and City of Ghosts, Matthew Heineman’s look at reporters covering a country under siege, which screened to great acclaim at Sundance earlier this winter. (All these films will screen under the “Syria 360°” label.)

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